Beyond the physical pain and discomfort of allergies, there is a connection between allergy symptoms and emotional and psychological behavior, particularly in seniors, the elderly and the homebound patient. Warm temperatures bring budding trees and flowering plants – the first signs of spring and for many spring fevers. The coughing, sneezing, watery eyes, runny nose and headaches can be felt outside and inside the home. Yes, pollen can get indoors and recent surveys show pollen counts may actually be worse indoors than outdoors. Pollen travels on your clothes, through doors and windows when opened and on pets. Any opening exposed to the environment contains pollen.
“The stuffy nose, sneezing, and watery eyes help to remove the invading pollen – an allergic reaction which begins in the immune system and reacts to foreign invaders.” The connection to allergies and mental health include anxiety over the discomfort, stress from constantly sneezing, depression from the ongoing physical distress and sleep deprivation.
Allergy sufferers may feel tired throughout the day, they may experience dizziness and confusion, be lethargic and sad. Patients diagnosed with an existing mental illness or behavior disorder can suffer psychotic episodes, pouts of crying, extreme loneliness and self-degradation. “Researchers report symptoms of ADHD, autism, and chronic fatigue in some allergy sufferers. Findings showed some allergy sufferers experienced chronic depression.
Seasonal allergy can affect the patient and the caregiver – disrupting their relationship and affecting communications. Sore throats, immobility and blurred vision can be an unexpected side effect triggering an emotional or mental breakdown. ““Large-scale population studies suggest that allergy sufferers are roughly twice as likely to have depression as people without allergies.”
Most caregivers and patients alike, are aware of bouts of allergies as spring, springs forward. Most have been diagnosed in the past and turn to over the counter or prescribed medications to ease the pain and frustration of seasonal allergies. However, if you or your patient is taking a new or different medication, is receiving a medical treatment or has recently undergone a medical treatment, talk to a doctor before doing “what you’ve always done” in the past. Various medications affect the immune system, over the counter and seasonal medications have side effects and as people age their bodies change. Even those tress and plants which look the same every year are affected by changes in the environment.
Pollen is a powdery substance with microscopic grains from the male part of a flower. “Did you know apples and pears are often related to birch tree pollen allergy; celery and carrots are linked to birch tree or mugwort weed pollens; and potato relates to grass pollen? True.. This is why it is important for you and/or your patient to see a doctor. Yes, it could be the allergies you experience every year, or it could be something very different. Protect yourself and your patient as you enjoy the beauty spring brings. You’ll be glad you did.